Equator Man: Episode 5
Romantic comedy cohabitation drama? Been there, done that. Dark, vengeful, tension-laden bromantic cohabitation drama between friends turned enemies? More, please.
This episode fleshes out the time-jump from our teen actors into adults, and the amount of time that hasn’t passed may come as a surprise. Once you get past that, you’re set for the rest of the episode – which takes a magnifying glass to the aftermath of a relationship once you, yunno, fail to kill the other person in it.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Jang-il continues to look terrified as Sun-woo fights off the male nurses who attempt to subdue him. All the while Sun-woo screams for help, and Jang-il watches helplessly even as his former-friend-he-tried-to-brutally-murder is forcibly strapped down to a bed.
He escapes outside as if to dry heave per the usual, and Soo-mi watches from a nearby window. I wonder how much she really knows.
So it seems as though only a few years have passed, since Jang-il is still in school and about to take the bar exam. (I know, let’s roll with it.) A run-in with his father at the market reveals that both of them are nervous about Sun-woo, though Yong-bae seems comforted by the fact that Sun-woo isn’t in his right mind.
It’s only on the train ride back to Seoul that Jang-il says aloud, “I’m never going back.”
When we finally encounter grown-up Ji-won (Lee Bo-young), she’s helping a blind person cross the street. I bet that skill is going to come in handy later.
Back in the hospital, Soo-mi gently calls Sun-woo to wake up. He opens his eyes to see the bouquet of flowers she’s brought him, and smells them with a smile on his face. When she mentions the lack of a vase he directs her to an empty one in the corner of the room… which starts to mysteriously fill itself with water. Creepy, but cool.
Aww, he’s so cheerful as he places the vase on the windowsill, all happy because he can see. But he’s a poor decorator and places the vase so that it crashes to the ground and breaks, which effectively wakes him up from his dream.
His reality is much more grim, where there’s no sunlight (or even light for that matter, seeing as he’s blind), and where his limbs are still in restraints. Soo-mi is still there by his bedside with a caring voice, although she has no idea what he’s talking about when he asks what she did with the flowers. There were no flowers.
She goes to tell the doctor to take off his restraints, and Sun-woo starts thrashing about in his bed again. “What’s wrong with my eyes? Do I not have eyes? I can feel my eyes moving!” he screams helplessly. He’s so confused, poor baby. He starts frantically calling for Soo-mi in the darkness.
This episode is doing a bang-up job in making me feel absolutely terrible for Sun-woo. He’s left alone during the day as everyone else gets to watch and laugh at the TV, while he can only stare into nothingness. His gangster friend (who’s also switched actors), Geum-jool, comes with a fresh change of clothes for Sun-woo’s discharge.
Left to his own devices, Sun-woo puts his shirt on backwards. The expression on his face is nine kinds of sad when he realizes he has to fix it, and that he’s helpless to do so. Aww.
Geum-jool leads him back to his house, which is just the way he left it for [insert undisclosed amount of time here]. Sun-woo stumbles inside once he insists he can find his way alone. He can’t see the picture on the desk of him and his father, but his expression changes when he feels the frame.
A voice comes from the front door – it’s Yong-bae, who’s come to visit. Upon hearing his voice, Sun-woo instinctively grabs his own throat with his hand. It might be a throwaway gesture, but that is how Yong-bae killed his father.
He does his best to seem fine, and even walks outside to greet Yong-bae. It’s easy to tell that Sun-woo is blind and struggling, so even Yong-bae seems to feel pity, since he’s brought rice cakes with him. Sun-woo’s memory is spotty even when it comes to Jang-il, and the most he can remember is that they were classmates.
Memories bring headaches for Sun-woo, who first says that he should ask his father before he goes anywhere, and then remembers that his father died when he was little (close, but no cigar, Sun-woo). Upon admitting that he’s gotten forgetful Yong-bae’s eyes fill with tears – the sight of Sun-woo has brought him a whole new wave of guilt for what he’s done.
Sun-woo can hear him crying, however much Yong-bae tries to deny it. “Why are you crying?” he finally asks, but Yong-bae has already high-tailed it out of there.
Once Yong-bae is alone, he cries desperately. “I will pay for all my sins. Please just leave Jang-il alone. Please, please leave Jang-il alone.”
It’s ironic, then, that Jang-il gives a presentation to his classmates on the sanctity of human life while we intercut to scenes of Sun-woo being unable to even get himself a bottle of water (he ends up drinking vinegar instead). While Jang-il basks in his own sense of righteousness, the man he failed to kill wallows in his suffering.
Kwang-choon, Soo-mi, and Geum-jool powwow over what’s to be done with Sun-woo – they can’t just let him waste away in his room like he’s been doing. Surgery seems like the best option, but for that he’ll have to go to Seoul – and luckily he has some insurance money to his name to possibly pay for it. Only he has no one in the city.
They end up talking about Jang-il’s visit to Sun-woo, though it was on the day where he was shouting and panicking. Sun-woo can hear them from inside and remembers grabbing onto Jang-il in the hospital… and then we hear: “Why did you do that, Jang-il? We were friends. Why did you try to kill me?” Oooohhh. Is the spotty memory all an act?
Soo-mi calls Jang-il, who’s unhappy that she found his number. She wants to know if he has any idea where Sun-woo could stay in Seoul (wouldn’t it be just epic if Sun-woo and Jang-il became temporary roommates? Oh, the possibilities), and he’s quick to reply that he doesn’t. But against his better judgment he can’t help but ask after Sun-woo’s health.
She tells him that his memory is unstable, and that all Sun-woo can remember is that he and Jang-il were close. She’s quick to add that Jang-il shouldn’t feel too bad for what happened to Sun-woo – some things in life are just inevitable that way. (So, does she know, or not?)
Geum-jool volunteers to lead Sun-woo to the cabin in the woods he owned with his father, which is now being seized by the landowner. This is the same trail he walked when he found his father dead, and Sun-woo senses it. Taking a head start running, he falls… and suddenly we’re in the memory with Young Sun-woo, having fallen after hitting his dead father’s hanging legs.
This triggers a string of flashbacks for Sun-woo, who remembers everything – including his father’s death, and being hit in the head by Jang-il. Faced with these horrible memories he begins to thrash wildly on the ground, screaming.
Chairman Jin gets the word that Tae-joo has gone looking for his son. Yong-bae is still doing odd jobs for him, and is charged with taking care of Chairman Jin’s country home since he’ll be spending most of his time in Seoul.
His car is forced to stop behind a taxi for Geum-jool and Sun-woo just ahead, and Chairman Jin seems to recognize Sun-woo. We flash back to some of his memories with his previous fiancée, Eun-hae, and how he was head over heels in love with her. Which only made him that much more afraid to lose her.
Unfortunately some of his flashbacks show some close behavior between Eun-hae and Tae-joo, and one specifically where she tells Tae-joo she’s pregnant and asks him not to tell Chairman Jin. It looks possible that Tae-joo really could be Sun-woo’s father, unless he was just a close confidante of Eun-hae’s.
Whatever the case, Chairman Jin is deeply affected by the memories. There’s an interesting moment where he tells Secretary Cha that he has no heartbreaking memories in his life, because he erased them all – they were only weighing him down. Well, we know that’s a lie.
Sun-woo’s been locking himself away from the world, and no amount of pleading from Geum-jool will get the door open. That’s why Soo-mi comes with a hammer to break the lock. Ha, I like this girl.
She’s upset to find Sun-woo sitting there, food uneaten. She berates him for trying to die like this – why did he even bother to wake up in the first place, then?
Kwang-choon and Geum-jool have a funny exchange outside that includes some jinxing, until Soo-mi comes to break up the affair. She tells them that she’s going to call Jang-il to come from Seoul – maybe Sun-woo needs a close friend to comfort him out of his sadness. Not a good idea, but okay.
Inside, Kwang-choon toes Sun-woo’s body and asks him if he plans on dying. Why live, anyway? He’s got all his arms and legs and good looks, not to mention the caring neighbors that come to take care of him every day. That’s enough reason to just die, right?
It’s only when Kwang-choon asks whether Sun-woo’s fall was truly an accident that Sun-woo sits up to pay attention. It’s in a despondent voice that he asks Kwang-choon if he knows anything about his accident, which he swiftly denies.
Kwang-choon, the smart man that he is, guesses that Sun-woo is pretending not to remember. “Just because you can’t do anything right now,” he advises, “it doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything forever. Don’t forget.” Sun-woo’s had enough, and sends him away.
Chairman Jin’s wife and daughter attend a fancy department store gala, where she seems more than happy to brag. Her daughter, Yoon-joo, is perfectly happy to keep popping her mom’s boasting bubble. I keep hoping there will be a reason for these wife/daughter scenes, but for now I’m zoning out. See you on the other side.
Geum-jool is doing Sun-woo’s laundry (aww), and Sun-woo suddenly thinks aloud that Jang-il must be worried about him. Geum-jool is ecstatic that Sun-woo remembers his best friend in the whole wide world Jang-il, although we know he remembers more than that. This is getting good.
He begins to dictate a letter to be written to Jang-il. In it, he tells Jang-il that he’s fine and congratulates his friend for getting into law school. “You will be a very successful man in the future,” he adds. While his friend goes to put it in the post before it’s too late, Sun-woo stares blankly ahead.
Sun-woo: “Oh yeah, I forgot the most important sentence. Jang-il, I remember everything. I think I know why you did that. I can’t forgive you. Even until the day I die, I’m not going to forgive you.”
Jang-il and Ji-won run into each other on campus, and it’s clear by their friendly banter that they’re somewhat close. They both seem to deny it though, and she turns him down for a coffee date. (Actually, ten whole coffee dates.) But he’s not to be deterred, and leaves movie tickets in her mailbox.
Unfortunately for Jang-il the whole ‘being forward’ thing backfires. Ji-won never shows up for the movie, and he sits through it alone.
Back on campus, one of his colleagues tells him that he’s got mail, and it’s with a huge grin on his face that Jang-il runs to the mailbox thinking that Ji-won has returned his correspondence. The color drains from his face when he sees that it’s a letter from Sun-woo.
Along with what Sun-woo dictated, there’s an addendum from Geum-jool, who tells Jang-il in the letter that Sun-woo still thinks of him as his best friend, and that he should come by when he gets a chance.
Jang-il crumples up the letter with a dark expression.
Chairman Jin’s wife brings up Moon Tae-joo and his whole mining enterprise, which is picking up steam. Despite Chairman Jin’s attempts to get her off the subject she keeps talking, eventually causing him to throw his cup of tea off the table. She gets hysterical about how he broke the good china. End scene.
Ji-won’s got it tough trying to balance her job (managing a ton of kids) along with studying for her classes. Whether that’s the reason she didn’t join Jang-il isn’t clear, but she soon finds Jang-il doing her library job for her. So for the next movie, she joins Jang-il in the theater, who smiles to see her.
There’s the classic head-on-the-shoulder shot as Ji-won swiftly falls asleep. Jang-il probably couldn’t be happier.
Soo-mi has decided to go get Jang-il herself, and shows up in Seoul. Jang-il is incredibly short with her, nearly refusing to give her the time of day. She explains that she wants him to come to see Sun-woo – maybe if he stays with him for a few days, he’ll recover his memories.
Jang-il notes that Sun-woo was well enough to send a letter, which Soo-mi quickly latches onto. Does he think that all is well just because Sun-woo wrote a letter? Jang-il seems to know that she won’t give up, so he tells her that he’ll try to go, which in Jang-il Speak means never.
Poor Soo-mi is still head over heels for him, and wonders if he doesn’t even have time for one cup of tea. He brusquely tells her that there’s somewhere he needs to be and leaves her to go straight to Ji-won. Soo-mi sees everything.
She returns to Sun-woo empty handed, though she suggests that they go to Seoul together so that he can get surgery to fix his eyesight. She’s playing a double objective since she wants to go to be closer to Jang-il, though I’m sure she’s also in it for Sun-woo’s health. I think it’s adorable that Geum-jool is sleeping outside so that he’s there if Sun-woo needs him.
Everyone agrees (Geum-jool included) that they’ll stay in a motel in Seoul until they can find a more permanent place. It’s Sun-woo who suggests that they call Jang-il… he lives in Seoul, right? Sun-woo wants her to ask him if he can lend his place until they find a room. I’m so excited for this.
We don’t hear the contents of the call, but we see Jang-il’s reaction as he listens to Soo-mi. It’s through severely clenched teeth that he says of course Sun-woo can stay with him – in fact, tell him not to worry about a thing. I’m probably sadistic to be ridiculously happy about this living situation.
There’s a cute moment where Sun-woo, as he’s leaving his house, says that he wants to “see” everything one last time. Soo-mi obliges him, and begins to describe his surroundings in perfect detail – from the chipping paint on the gate to the magnolias growing on his neighbor’s tree.
Then we get some intercut scenes where Ji-won reads a love letter by Elizabeth Browning (Ji-won says Elizabeth Brown, but I’m pretty sure she meant famous poet Browning) over scenes of Sun-woo approaching Jang-il’s house, while Jang-il nervously watches and waits from his balcony. I swear I’m trying not to read into this, but a love letter that is deliberately placed over Jang-il and Sun-woo’s reunion scene? Bromance overload.
Jang-il opens the door slowly to see Sun-woo on the other side, and at first his face is blank… until he breaks out into a full smile, and grabs Sun-woo in an embrace. It’s like old times. (And like no one tried to kill each other.)
They sort out living arrangements, with Jang-il assuring them that he’s not being put out at all. When Sun-woo thanks him, Jang-il’s face completely changes as he tells him, “Don’t thank me.” Only it’s somehow creepy at the same time.
Sun-woo is sleeping in the living room so that he has easier access to the bathroom, and Jang-il attempts to sneak by in the middle of the night. Sun-woo shoots up from the couch, having never been asleep, and the two share a tense exchange that culminates in Sun-woo innocently asking, “When was the last time we saw each other?”
Jang-il doesn’t miss a beat. “I don’t know.”
Sun-woo doesn’t let up. Does he really not remember? Jang-il says that he thinks they last met at a BBQ place to eat meat and drink soju. This elicits a laugh from Sun-woo, who remembers the last thing they did together – and it certainly wasn’t drinking.
He says the only thing he can remember is that he’d pay for Jang-il’s tuition… and now he’s sorry that he’s being a burden. Worry creases Jang-il’s face as he asks Sun-woo if he’s sure he doesn’t remember how he got into the accident. Sun-woo says he only remembers that it was cold that day.
“Did I say I was going to the police station?” Sun-woo asks. “I don’t know,” Jang-il replies. Yikes. Jang-il is playing a dangerous game, and even assures Sun-woo that no one is pulling one on him by telling him that he supposedly wanted to go to the police station.
Soo-mi has heard everything, and watches them through a crack in the door. Jang-il goes into his room to think, just as she and Sun-woo do the same. Everyone’s separate, but I’m pretty sure they’re all on the same page.
Meanwhile, Tae-joo is flying his way to Korea, and has a Korean-English conversation with a nearby passenger about “his son”. He plans to take his son to the U.S. and make him the best man in the world.
Jang-il left early in the morning, and Sun-woo is forced to learn about the apartment just based on Soo-mi’s descriptions. He’s able to glean that it’s an expensive, large gift from Chairman Jin – which even Soo-mi finds suspicious, because a scholarship only extends so far. Why go through the trouble of buying Jang-il such a nice place?
Sun-woo knows why, though, and so do we.
Meanwhile, Ji-won reads from a book into a radio microphone, “Can people live without love?” She tells the rest of the story, but I’m pretty sure that question sums up the message we’re to get from this scene.
For whatever reason Sun-woo has been left to wander the college blind and alone, and contrary to normal drama expectations where no one recognizes anyone once they’ve gone from children to adults, Ji-won passes Sun-woo by and immediately recognizes him as the boy from the windshield incident.
She smiles widely to see him, and asks if he remembers her. But then she sees the blank look in his eyes, and slowly realizes that he can’t even see her, much less remember her
I knew that the age gap between Uhm Tae-woong and Lee Jun-hyuk was going to require a healthy suspension of disbelief, because of the nearly ten-year age difference. Surprisingly, I bought into it fairly easily, because I like both actors enough to be happy to see them together on the same screen.
Here’s what is hard to buy: That instead of having a reasonable amount of drama years passing to net us our growth from the teen actors into the adults, we’ve only gotten two years or less. So, teen Sun-woo changed into Uhm Tae-woong, when it’s only been a couple of years? I’m going to have to call shenanigans on you, Equator Man.
I have to question why the actor switch was reasonable and necessary at this point in the series when a cursory glance at the promotional materials tells us that thirteen years pass before the real revenge plot kicks in. I’m guessing that the idea was to give Uhm Tae-woong & Co. more episodes (rather than having him jump in ‘Thirteen Years Later’), and I’m not complaining about the awesomeness of the Uhmforce, only that it all somehow feels a bit mismanaged.
With that out of the way, the relationship between Sun-woo and Jang-il remains the most compelling, as expected. I can’t tell yet whether Chairman Jin’s wife and daughter are going to be a recurring subplot, even though the signs point to “yes.” Hopefully they’re going somewhere with those characters, because as of now every time his wife and daughter show up on the screen the story screeches to a halt and my brain checks out. I’m not in this drama for the chaebol shenanigans, I’m in it for the brotherly revenge tale.
It’s nice then that every conversation isn’t what it seems to be on the surface. I wasn’t able to read Soo-mi as a teen but she gave off a different vibe than Im Jung-eun does now, although I’m liking Soo-mi more because of it. It’s hard to tell what she’s thinking, so when she acts like she’s caring for Sun-woo there’s always that thought in the back of my mind as to whether she’s really doing it for Sun-woo, or if it’s because of her infatuation with Jang-il.
Sun-woo, too, got a whole lot more interesting now that he has so much more to play. Every conversation he has is a means of finding out something else, and it’s fun to see his mind at work. His conversation with Jang-il had me on pins and needles, and if that’s a taste of what to expect for the rest of the series, I’m all in.